"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gimpy Goat and No More Milk

This is Django. She is one of the original three goats we bought when we moved here, and now she is the only La Mancha I have (La Manchas are the earless goats. Nobody cut off her ears: it's just her breed.). Django has always been a good goat - good mother, good milker, about as easy-going as a goat gets. She did get terribly ill a couple of years ago after getting into the grain, but she recovered and has been pretty healthy ever since. She had triplets this past year.

Yesterday when I went out to do the chores, I saw something awful. Django appears to have a dislocated shoulder. One of her shoulder blades is depressed downwards and if I lay my palm on the place where it ought to be I can feel the bone socket. Her elbow is rather radically displaced - down and to the side. Nonetheless, she is getting around okay. I called the vet, of course, and as I was trying to explain exactly where the dislocation was, Django kept running away from me. As James Herriot said in his wonderful book All Creatures Great and Small, if you can't catch your patient you've probably got little to worry about. She was browsing normally and later on chewing her cud. She didn't cry when I manipulated the joint.

The vet said that he's seen this before, and never had any luck trying to manually replace the bone. He said an operation would be the only option. Well, I said, it's not an option for us... do you think she'll recover on her own? Is this a very painful condition? He said that it was unlikely the joint would "pop back in" on it's own, but that over the next few months she would develop a false joint and be more or less normal. She would look funny and probably never quite keep up with the herd, but once the joint stabilized she would get around fine. It's hard to tell how much pain a goat is in, they are very stoic animals, but it's a good sign that she's chewing her cud. He said it's a good thing it's the foreleg; hind leg displacements are more problematic and could interfere with kidding.

So we aren't going to do anything. This morning she jumped on and off the milking stand just like usual. She is interacting with the other goats and seems pretty normal, except for that weird elbow thing. I'll just keep an eye on her and watch for worsening mobility or signs of pain. If she does get worse, we'll have to make a decision then.

Also, all the goats are more or less dry. I got about a cup of milk from each one, and that's just not worth it. Most likely they are all pregnant and so I'll just stop milking until next spring.
Cheese season is over at last!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Great Goat (Manly Food)!

Yesterday, I made goat for dinner.

Obviously, we have eaten some of our goats before. We have butchered kids two years in a row now, and every time we have eaten some of the meat. But this past butchering was the first time we actually put a whole goat in the freezer. Before that, we sold the kids to people who butchered them on site and then took the meat away for a big party (to which we were invited). See Goat Butchering Party.

Although I cooked a leg of goat on the day of slaughter for the men who were butchering, I had not removed any of the meat from the freezer to cook until last night. I was a little reluctant. It's funny - every time I have eaten goat, I liked it. "Hey, that's not too bad," was my reaction, and sometimes "man, that's really good!" Yet, I never got over the faint distaste I felt when I raised it to my lips and opened my mouth. The thought of eating goat was what I disliked - I'm not sure if it had more to do with the fact of being present for the butchering or with having known the individual animals, or with goat being a "non-food animal" for Americans.

Whatever the problem was, it's all over now. The leg of goat I made last night was probably the single best-tasting piece of meat I've ever eaten in my life. There is one steak from a steakhouse in St. Louis that I remember as being a serious contender, but actually, I think this goat was better.

Goat needs long, slow cooking, I've decided, at least, our goat does. Here's what I did last night:

Braised Goat, Yucateco Style

1 3-4 pound piece of goat (the piece I used was labeled "loin" but I think that was wrong. I think it was actually a substantial section of hind leg.)

Thaw meat if frozen and place in a big ziploc.

In a big mortar and pestle or in the blender, blend together 4 cloves garlic, several allspice berries, several whole cloves, 3/4 tsp cumin seed, ditto peppercorns, 1 tsp salt, pinch red pepper flakes, big pinch thyme, tablespoon olive oil, tablespoon achiote paste, 1.5 cups orange juice, juice of one lime, a half can or so beer (lager) and a tablespoon of cider vinegar. Add a branch of rosemary to the bag (do not blend rosemary in blender). Put marinade in the bag with the meat and let rest 3-4 hours, turning as needed.

No later than 3 in the afternoon, put goat with all the marinade into a large baking dish. Quarter three yellow onions and add to dish. Bake, uncovered, at 325 for 2 hours. Baste occasionally, and turn the meat over once (if the shape of the roast allows this). If marinade thickens too much, loosen with orange juice.

At about 2 hours, test the meat with two forks to see if it pulls away from bone easily. It should be starting to shred. At this point, add to dish (all veggies diced into 1/2" dice) 1 large carrot, one large stick celery, and 1 large potato. Make sure veggies are all coated with juices and leave to bake approximately 1 hour more.

By 6 pm, the meat should be falling apart, the veggies tender, and everyone salivating from the incredible aroma. Serve meat with white rice and lots of fresh hot corn tortillas. This was just out-of-this-world mind blowingly good.

I think I'll try goat ribs next.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheap Delicious Dinner (Girly Food)

In a recent post (There's Nothing to Eat (Pantry Management)!) I was casting about randomly for combinations of proteins and starches for dinner, and one of the duos I came up with was quinoa and tofu. As a matter of fact, although I have cooked each of these separately, I hadn't ever combined them into one meal before. Tonight, as 7:oo rolled around and everyone was still whining for dinner, I seized upon this combo as a quick fix.

It wouldn't have worked, by the way, if my husband were expected for dinner. He doesn't mind the occasional vegetarian meal, as long as it is based on traditional Latin staples such as rice, beans, and corn. But quinoa and tofu do NOT fit his idea of a satisfying meal. He would have rather eaten some Top Ramen. That's traditional Mexican all right - traditional wetback solo male post- 12-hour shift physical labor cuisine. Along with 3 for $10 frozen pizzas and maybe hot dogs cooked over the gas burner on a fork.

Anyway. Here's what I did tonight, and it all three of my kids ate it up with relish:

1.5 cups quinoa, placed in a stockpot with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, cover, and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Meanwhile: Heat 2 tablespoons (or so) neutral oil in a large skillet over medium high heat

dice 1 package extra-firm tofu into 1/2" cubes, and fry, turning occasionally while you:

chop one stick celery, one carrot, 1/4 small head red cabbage, 2-3 cloves garlic, 2 jalapenos: add veggies to skillet and keep turning

add: 1 tsp (give or take) mashed fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fermented red pepper paste (yeah, sorry, don't know where to get it. I got mine at Uwajimaya like 10 years ago. If you ever find it, know it will keep literally forever in your fridge), a teaspoon vinegar and a teaspoon sugar. If you have any cilantro, chop and toss with the rest.

Turn off veggies. Uncover and fluff quinoa with a fork. Serve everybody about 1/2 cup quinoa topped with generous scoop tofu and veggies. Umma-numma-numma.

I worked out the finances, and this extremely nutritious meal costs about $0.75 per serving. Maybe $1 max. Enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blueberry Bliss

Homero and Ivory dig holes for the blueberry bushes


The weather has made a drastic turn for the normal - meaning the temperatures dropped twenty degrees and it's started to rain more or less constantly. That's normal. The sixty-plus degree days, the bright sunshine, the blooming rhododendrons - all very nice I'm sure, but completely out of the ordinary and unnerving for a climate-change believer like myself. I'd rather freeze my tuchus off and feel like all is right with the world than go bodysurfing in November.

Anyway. My ongoing love affair with Craigslist has once again borne fruit (hahaha): blueberry bushes. We love blueberries around here. We also love raspberries and blackberries, but I think blueberries are my favorite. For the last several years, we have picked our blueberries at a wonderful local organic farm called Hannah's blueberries (Enterprise road, for you locals). I love this place for a lot of reasons - tall old bushes, acres to get lost in, a dozen different varieties, only $1 a pound... but still, that didn't stop me from wanting blueberries of my own. Partly because of the self sufficiency game (The self-sufficiency game (love you, Dad)) and partly because blueberries are a gorgeous plant. One thing I am missing here on the farm is some fall color, and nothing has more beautiful fall color than blueberry bushes.

So, when I saw an ad for fully mature blueberry bushes - six to nine feet tall, twelve years old, bearing 10 to 15 pounds of fruit per year, for only $25/bush, I jumped all over it. A local commercial grower was replanting some of his acreage in new varieties, and getting rid of his full-grown Nelson blueberries. He had a 4 bush minimum, so that's what I bought.

As usual, I buy stuff, and the burden of the actual work lands on the wide and capable shoulders of my ever-patient husband. He spent two backbreaking hours in the rain and wind yesterday planting bushes, while I snapped photos and generally stood around feeling useless (back injury, remember?). But I'll make it up to him next summer when I bake him blueberry muffins, pies, biscuits, pancakes....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bad Year For Apples

Every fall since we moved up here, I've put out an ad looking for apples to make cider. I inherited a lovely old motorized, double barreled apple press and a giant thirst for cider, but we don't have apple trees here. Of course, we planted some the very first spring, and we planted more the next year (Expanding Orchard) but between the goats, the poor soil, and carelessness with the riding lawnmower, we haven't had a great survival rate. The trees that are still alive are still a few years away from any kind of decent crop.

In years past, I always enjoyed an enthusiastic response to my ads. The deal was: you bring your apples, we share the work of pressing, and each keep half the cider. Homebrewers can have all the cider in return for a quarter of the finished product back. Everyone seemed happy with this deal, and the response was such that I spent most weekends in September and October utterly exhausted (Apples Kicked my Ass).

This year, I got zero response to my Craigslist posting. None. Zilch. I reposted, but no response. I think it has just been a bad year for apples. After my ad got no results, I started asking around, people at church and school, if anyone had extra apples. Everyone told me they had a poor harvest, or even a non-existent harvest this year. My own observations bore this out - usually this time of year, as you drive around the countryside, you see dozens of loaded apple trees. Every old homestead had an orchard, and every third city lot has a tree or two. Normally the apples are falling all over the place about now. But no; all I see are a bunch of bare trees.

It's funny, because we had a great crop of pears this year. It was a long, cold, late spring. I was worried about the pear tree, because during the blossom time I thought it was still too cold and wet for bees. Then it was a short, cool summer. Our pears did fine, but apparently many apple trees did not.

For the first time, I had to buy apples! Now, I can't buy enough apples to press for cider. I can't afford to. Maybe later in the year, as the season is ending, the commercial growers will be happy to sell their U-pick apples at a price that will make cider economical, but for now, it's just not. Still, I can't possible just let apple season go by without any fresh new crop apples to munch on! I bought a 40 pound crate of Jonagolds from a homesteader out in Lynden. They are delicious, but 40 pounds is a lot of apples to eat fresh. I still have a bunch of canned pear sauce, so I didn't feel like making applesauce.

I made several apple-cakes. My particular made-up recipe is an apple-ginger-walnut cake. Furthermore it is made - these days - with homemade goat-yogurt and topped with cajeta. Wish I'd taken a picture, but I didn't. Since I made four of them, we will eat one and wrap three for the freezer. Cake freezes beautifully. Just thaw it on the counter and warm in a slow oven to serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hovander Park's Fragrance Garden

Yesterday was a gorgeous bright sunny day - unseasonably warm, in fact. But I loved it. For the first time in a long time I actually feel well enough to take medium-to-long walks. I've been hurt so much of the last several months - my back injury and before that my knee injury - that I've really been feeling the lack of exercise. So I left the kids with Homero and took off for a solo-sojourn to Hovander Park

Hovander Park is kind of an institution around here. It's one of the very best places to bring young kids for nature walks or to visit farm animals and see what an old fashioned, large scale homestead looked like c. 1885.

Originally, Hovander was a 60 acre homestead settles by a prosperous Scandinavian family. Mr. Hovander built an amazing three story house and an enormous barn, both of which are in excellent repair and available for visiting. The barn is packed with original farm equipment, which is awesome, especially for little boys. The house is surrounded with gardens. Hovander is the site of the Master Gardener's program gardens, and they are quite a sight. There is a kitchen vegetable garden, a giant herb garden, the original orchard, pumpkin patch, corn maze, and a beautiful dahlia garden full of dozens of colorful varieties. There is even a noxious weed garden, planted so that landowners can recognize and hopefully eradicate invasive plants.

There is another section of the park a quarter mile away or so, which I like even better. Another house of the same era (history unknown to me) houses a visitor's center which has never been open on any of the three dozen occasions I have visited. However, that doesn't matter. This house is also surrounded by an amazing garden - a fragrance garden.

Fragrance gardens are gardens specially designed for the blind. Rather than focusing on showy flowers and stunning colors, they focus on beautiful scents and interesting textures. This garden has hedges of rosemary, of thyme and sage, dozens of varieties of mint, rosebushes, mock orange, lemon verbena, and all sorts of wonderful smelling plants. It is, of course, also a beautiful garden. I love to walk there and rub all the plants until I smell like a walking herb patch.
Behind the house is a wooden lookout tower, about seven stories high. There's a plaque somewhere that says what its original purpose was, but I can't remember now. Today it's purpose is to provide a small workout followed by spectacular views of the mountain over Tenant Lake.

It's a slight exaggeration to call that body of water a lake - it's more of a large swamp/marsh. I don't think the water gets more than a couple of feet deep anywhere, but it is pretty large - large enough to provide habitat to many many frogs, fish, turtles, beavers, and water birds. There is a mile-long circular boardwalk out over the water. It's a terrific place to bring the kids for a nature walk. There are always dragonflies and tiny minnows swarming in the shallow water. During the migration season, there are hordes of geese and swans. Some of the trail is open but most of it is hemmed in by trees and tall bushes, so it feels very secluded.

The walk felt good. The climb to the top of the tower felt not-so-good, but my panting and wheezing served to harden my resolve to get moving more often and regain a little bit of condition. Taking pictures felt good. Just being all alone with nothing in particular to think about felt good.
Snow White and Rose Red - snowberries and rosehips on the trail at Hovander Park

Sunday, October 17, 2010

There's Nothing to Eat (Pantry Management)!

Most of us with teenage children are probably used to them sauntering into the kitchen (at 11:30 saturday morning), opening a cupboard or the fridge, and moaning "there's never anything to eat around here!" As parents, we look into the fridge and see that in fact, it isn't bare at all. To adult eyes, it looks full of food.

In my house, I hear this all the time. Not just from my kids and husband, but from family and friends when they come over. Actually, what I hear is "How can you have so much food and nothing to eat?" Obviously, there's a difference between teenagers and other adults, who can in fact cook. The teenager probably means you are out of his favorite cereal and he considers it a hardship to have to eat his second favorite cereal. Grownups mean there is nothing to eat without having to take inventory of the pantry, sit down and consult a recipe book, and then spend an hour cooking.

Many of us are trying - for reasons ranging from simple thrift to religious encouragement to fears about the Zombiepocalypse - to build up some food storage. There are any number of reasons to have storable food on hand. But here's the thing - unless you are into MREs, stored food isn't generally amenable to quick snacking. For the most part, food storage is going to consist of dry goods like rice and beans, flour and sugar and salt; canned goods (home canned or store bought); and for those of us with a chest freezer, meat and other frozen goods. Generally speaking, heat-and-eat processed foods are not big on the home food storage list. They are too expensive.

Speaking of expense - even those of us who aren't into storing food may choose simple, unprocessed foods as a matter of economy. A homemade meal of - oh, say, chicken and vegetable curry with basmati rice and lentil dal is only about one tenth the price of the same meal bought in frozen form from Costco or Trader Joe's.

And some of us just like to cook, the old fashioned way. I admit, I am kind of a stick in the mud (I don't, for example, own a microwave) but I was highly amused when I was trolling the aisles of Trader Joe's and saw vacuum packed, fully cooked rice. What? People find boiling rice too challenging these days? Really?

Now, I have sympathy for people looking for a quick snack in my house. I am fairly far over to the crunchy granola side of the spectrum. Someone peeking into my cupboard is a lot more likely to find a home canned jar of pickled beets than they are a box of toaster pastries. In the freezer, it's going to be haunch of goat instead of frozen pizza. And my fridge is pretty much a solid wall of weird home farm products distinguishable only to me. I really don't expect anyone else to be able to tell the goat milk from the yogurt from the jar of clean white rendered lard. Six kinds of homemade cheese. Many of the things in there are pretty off-putting: someone recently threw away my ziploc bag of sourdough starter. I'm sad - it was from a 75 year old strain. But I can see why someone who didn't know what it was would throw it out. Then there's the kim chee sitting out on the counter, in it's second week of fermentation.

I don't mean to suggest we are purists - quite often there IS a frozen pizza in the freezer or some boxed mac n' cheese in the pantry. We have instant oatmeal for school mornings. My husband is prone to impulse purchases of Lucky Charms and Flamin' Hot Cheetos. But it's true more often than not that if you want to eat something beyond a bowl of yogurt with honey or an apple with cheese, you're going to have to cook. I happen to love cooking, but even the most enthusiastic chef gets tired of making two or three meals a day from scratch. Nobody wants every meal to be a marathon gourmet session. Preparing quick, easy, and relatively healthy meals from scratch without tiring yourself out is largely a matter of having a good pantry. I'm going to lay out for you my personal bare-bones pantry - the hardworking rotation that gets called upon over and over week after week. Most of these items are also food storage items; of course at any given time you will have fresh local fruits and veggies depending on the season and the produce of your own garden.

I tend to break up my pantry into a few categories. The most important is "staples." That is, the backbone starch that will be the bulk of calories in most meals. Here I am only listing those that are quick(20 minutes or less) and easy to prepare -

- white rice
- red lentils
- bulgar wheat (the base for tabouli. It needs no cooking at all, just soaking in very hot water)
- potatoes
- quinoa
- pasta (hooray for pasta!)
- canned beans of all descriptions
- corn tortillas

Choose your "staple" first - it more than anything else determines the character of the meal. You can use the same protein and seasonings with different staples and have totally different meals. The next category is "proteins." Again, only the quick and easy are listed here. A whole chicken is a great protein, but it's not what you want when your kids are whining that they are about to die from starvation. Most of these come in cans.

- tuna (love this! If you eat a lot of tuna, choose chunk light for the lower mercury content. If you eat a little, go for solid white albacore)
- canned chicken breast
- sardines (not anchovies - those come later in the flavorings section)
- canned shrimp
- canned clams
- small cuts of beef or pork for the freezer. Small thin cut pork chops or thin cuts of beef like skirt steak can be removed from the freezer and cooked without thawing.
- tofu. I like the shelf-stable extra-firm for cubing and pan frying.
- canned beans. These are both a starch and a protein.
- cheese

Before we move on to flavorings, pick a starch and a protein. It could be potatoes and cheese. Or pasta and tuna. Quinoa and tofu. Okay - moving on - the last category is flavorings. These are the bottles and jars that clutter up the back of the fridge. Stuff like chutney, ketchup, salad dressings, mustard, etc. Also I am including a few fresh items that I try to always have on hand. Here are the ones that I absolutely can't live without (in no particular order):

- olives. I buy those giant jars of kalamata olives at Costco, and we go through them, too.
- mustard
- capers
- lemons and limes
- garlic
- chiles, both fresh and dried
- parsley
- good quality soy sauce
- selection of oils, including sesame and something like walnut or hazelnut
- fresh ginger root
- cilantro
- hot sauce
- selection of vinegars
- a good selection of spices - all the basics like cinnamon and cloves and cumin, fennel, allspice, thyme, oregano, etc plus good quality blends like curry powder and harissa

Okay. Now we have some choices to make. We have the skeleton of the meal - starch and protein. Sometimes that choice will suggest your flavorings. For example, if we picked pasta and tuna, to me that cries out for a nice Italian treatment. Grab a pan, pour in some olive oil and saute some chopped garlic, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the pasta and tuna, then shower with minced parsley. Hit it with a shot of lemon juice and BOOM, there's supper.

If we chose potatoes and cheese, we might go in a couple of different ways. My family likes Mexican flavored fried potatoes, which would mean something like sliced chilies, garlic, cumin seed, and cilantro. But maybe we want kind of a European thing. Maybe fry your potatoes with onion, green cabbage, fennel seed, caraway, and finish with a little mustard and black pepper. Or, make a potato gratin. Thinly slice potatoes and layer in a lasagna pan with onions and a vegetable like fennel bulb, beets, or parsnips. Cover with cheese and pour over light cream to cover. Bake at 350 until browned and bubbly. I'm just making shit up, here.

Quinoa and tofu might suggest a far-east treatment. While the quinoa simmers, pan fry the tofu cubes in a little sesame oil along with garlic, green onions, hot red pepper flakes, ginger, and some kind of veggie - chopped kale or spinach sounds good. Toss with the quinoa and add soy sauce to taste. Maybe some lime juice or a shot of rice wine vinegar.

It helps to know which flavorings go together - the Mediterranean grouping, for example, of olives, capers, olive oil, anchovies, lemon, parsley, oregano, thyme, mild peppers... or the chinese soy, ginger, garlic, and chile.... the Mexican garlic, cumin, chile, lime, and allspice.... these blends are easy to get the hang of with just a little reading. I suggest the excellent "world of the east vegetarian cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey for all eastern hemisphere cuisines and Sherri Lukins (sp?) "All Around the World Cookbook" as a great, fun to read resource.

Have fun in the kitchen!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Organic Disaster (Late Season Trades)

My longest running trade partner, Veggie/Oil Man ( see This Is What You Call Having Your Work Cut Out For You), had a rough year. His farm is certified organic, and so he uses natural fertilizers like steer manure. Early this summer, he - along with a dozen other organic farm in Whatcom County - bought steer manure tainted with some kind of broad-leaf herbicide. The herbicide came from the hay fed to the cows, and the cows apparently passed it right through unchanged, because when he applied this fertilizers to his crops, all the broadleaf crops died.

This was a disaster, of course - not only did he lose the majority of his yearly production, but this stuff may be quite persistent in the soil and affect his crops for years to come. There's also the question of what will happen to his organic certification. Some people have wondered why it is that manure from non-organic cattle can be used on organic farms. Personally I think there's only so far back up the chain you can go - you have to draw the line somewhere. If all the manure had to come from only cows fed hay from certified organic land - well, there just wouldn't be enough.

There is some hope - he told me that late in the summer, they noticed that broadleaf weeds were coming back, so they tried a late season planting of quick growing greens like arugula. They had a greens crop by mid-september. Also, he had some fields that were not fertilized with the tainted poop.

One of those fields was his pumpkin patch. At the last farmer's market of the season last week, he was giving away pumpkins. Due to the cool, short summer, many of them didn't quite orange up the way they should. He can't sell greenish jack-o-lanterns to his regular outlets, and he has a few thousand not-quite-ripe pumpkins sitting in his fields. So I went and got some.

They are orange enough for me. Of course I brought some cheese with me - a half pound each of the Smokin' Goat and the Seedy Dill and Caraway. While I was there, I noticed that there were still many blossoms on the vines and asked if I could grab some. He said go ahead, so I filled up a little lunchbag. These are just as good as any other kind of squash blossom. There are a lot of things to do with squash blossoms, but my husband like them simply tucked into quesadillas.

A sharp eye is important when looking for trades. I saw that he had a grapevine along one side of a shed and asked if I could take some leaves, which still looked nice. "Heck," he said, "take some grapes." I said I'd have to bring him back some more cheese and he said that would be fine. So the next day I went back and picked a few pounds of lovely delicious concord grapes. I'll put them in the kids' lunches.

I still have a big cheese surplus. I made tons of cheese (okay, tens of pounds of cheese) in advance of the September Swap Meet, which then was a dismal flop. I know there are still trades to be had out there - apples, for example - but I can't advertise the cheese as a trade item. Cheese must be a word-of-mouth item, traded to friends only.

So hey - if you are one of my friends... or a friend of a friend.... and you have an apple tree or maybe some late season greens like kale or collards... parsnips... you know who to call!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kim Chee Situation (Food Storage Update)

The title of this post is a song title. A song that my talented then-fifteen year old daughter made up to commemorate the day a jar of kim chee exploded in the car. Full lyrics can be found here: The Alchemy of Cabbage (A Little Knowledge Can Be a Good Thing). Isn't she just amazing?!

One might think an event like that would put me off kim chee forever, but strangely, it hasn't. I guess the siren song of fermented cabbage is just too seductive to resist. Last year's kim chee - my first foray into lacto-fermented foodstuffs - was okay, but definitely a little too sweet. This year I made it with only the barest whisper of sugar, just enough to encourage things to get rolling.
Here are all the ingredients arrayed on the counter. The awesome gigantic red clay mortar and pestle is a recent score from a downtown thrift shop (Christmas 2009, Thrift Store Edition). Five dollars, and sturdy as a brick outhouse. I already have a good mortar and pestle, of course, a marble one which was a long ago gift, and I will certainly continue to use it; but this one is five times the size. The old one is good for a few cloves of garlic or crushing some whole spices, but this one will work for major jobs like making mole or... crushing the spice paste for a large batch of kim chee!

The other ingredients are:

- one large savoy cabbage, roughly chopped (got it at the last saturday Ferndale Farmer's Market of the year. Sniff!).

- one medium yellow onion, sliced to ribbons

- two bunches green onions, chopped into one inch lengths

- half a head of hot Korean garlic, also bought at the farmer's market

- branch of ginger (I'm not using all that ginger, only about two inches of it).

- hot red pepper flakes

The cabbage was put to rest for about four hours in a strong salt brine (one tablespoon salt per cup water) and then squeezed out and placed in my biggest mixing bowl.

Then I crushed the garlic, ginger, red pepper, and a touch of soy sauce into a rough paste in my new mortar and pestle. This part was fun. If you are feeling annoyed or upset about something, or just tense in the shoulders, it's very therapeutic to bash the hell out of things. But even if you are feeling fit as a fiddle and happy as a clam, it's still fun. Put on some music with a good bass line and thump away.

When you like the look of the spice paste - or your arm is tired - scoop it up in your hands and rub it into the cabbage. Mix it up gently. Make sure every bit of cabbage has a little bit of spice on it. Then pack the cabbage into a large glass or ceramic jar. Make sure there is plenty of room, you don't want it to be crammed in there tight. Put a lid on it, but loosely.

Here is the kim chee sitting on my kitchen altar to ripen. Every day, I turn it over once or twice. Every other day I loosen the lid to let gas escape and to get a whiff of the lovely bubbling stinky fermented smell of it. The kim chee will be ready to eat in four days, but you can let it keep going pretty much as long as you want. Just refrigerate it after the first three or four days.

In my house, I am the only one who likes kim chee. If that's true in your house as well, you might try to make less kim chee than I did (that's a half-gallon jar in that picture). I imagine I'll be eating kim chee all by my lonesome well into winter.

Clearly, I spoke too soon when I said I was done preserving for the year (Canning Wrap Up (Green Tomato Chutney)). Not only did I make kim chee this week, but I also used up a serious milk surplus by making and canning about two gallons of cajeta. All those little jars on the top shelf are full of cajeta, as are the two half-gallon jars on the bottom shelf. The small jars I will probably give away for christmas presents and the large jars are for us. I know a gallon of cajeta sounds like a lot, but you would NOT believe how much of this stuff my husband eats. It goes in his coffee every morning, and he like a ratio of about 1:4 cajeta to coffee.

I am more or less happy with my pantry. In addition to cajeta, there are several quarts of cucumber pickles; some pickled beans and asparagus; several quarts of pear sauce; a few pints of homemade ketchup; and, of course, the green tomato chutney. That's the homemade, local side of things. As you can see, I'm not a purist about that. Costco has also provided many of the items in my pantry, from the fifty pound sack of rice to the crate of soy milk.

I believe, at the moment, that we have a good three to six month supply of food in the house, and that's pretty good. In addition to my dry goods pantry above (50 pounds of white and brown rice, 50 pounds of pinto beans, 12 pounds of pasta, crate of canned tomatoes, ten or so pounds of mixed dried pulses, canned tuna, flour, sugar, salt, etc) there is also the chest freezer and the cold storage. Right now, the chest freezer has one whole goat in it, as well as a few pounds of beef and pork. But I have already paid for a quarter steer and a half hog, which are currently being cut and wrapped. So in a week or so, the freezer will be full to bursting. Also in the freezer are the last of the berries we picked this summer. Not many left - a few pounds of blueberries and a quart of raspberries.

The cold storage has a dozen assorted large winter squash and a big box full of apples. I need a better cold storage system - right now it's just the cupboards out in the shed. This works fine for October and November - and most years, a lot of December as well - but if there's a real hard freeze everything out there would freeze. For now, I just make sure we eat everything up by the end of November. For the long term, I would like to dig a real root cellar.

Going into the cold season, I like to take inventory and make sure we are stocked up. It's not like we are isolated here - we are on a state highway and only ten miles from town - but even so. The weather here is more severe than I was used to in Seattle. Though we are only 100 miles to the north, it turns out that makes a pretty big difference. Add to that the fact that we are on a high, exposed hill that gets the full blast of the wind off the water, and it starts to become a little nervous-making. This year is a strong La Nina year - so I read in the papers - and that means more snow and extreme winter weather than usual. I remember very well the winter of 2008, when we were snowed in completely for a full week.

Of course, preparing for a winter like 2008 requires more than having enough food on hand. There's also the question of what to do when the power goes out. That, however, is for another post. For now, I'm satisfied with my kim chee and my pantry and my half-full tank of propane.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Caprine Incest and Inter-Species Affairs (Oh My!)

Storm Cloud, our handsome herd sire, seems to have impregnated every doe on the farm. None of the three have gone into heat for well over a month now, which means they are knocked up.

Yes, even his own dam. I know - it gives me the heebie-jeebies too, but goats just don't care about incest. I tried to prevent Flopsy from getting pregnant by selling her before breeding season, but nobody wanted her because of her history of mastitis. I think that's silly - her genetics are as good as they ever were (which is great) and she's fully recovered with no recurrence this year. She threw me triplet doelings last spring and she's a good mother, a good milker, and the healthiest doe I have as regards parasites. She also has good feet.

Oh well - next spring I will have some inbred little goatlings jumping around. Real goat breeders use line breeding all the time (usually sire/female offspring crosses rather than dam/male offspring. I don't know why except perhaps because we humans find it marginally less skeevy. The genetics involved should be identical). However, that's no excuse for me. I'm not a breeder trying to concentrate certain genetic traits; I'm a lazy broke homesteader without enough money or muscles to build a good buck pen.

Any offspring of Storm Cloud and Flopsy will simply be marked as a meat animal from the start. I don't care how cute they are. If they're super spotty and adorable we can always tan their little hides and use them for rugs. Or something. I can't sell an inbred animal that might be bred. Of course, I could wether the males and sell them as pets or brush-eaters.

But all those considerations are in the future. Right now I want to tell you about the sweet love between Storm Cloud and Rosie Pony. While the does were in heat, Cloud was naturally distracted, but as soon as he had done his duty by them, he went faithfully back to his first love: Rosie. He follows her everywhere.

He stays by her side most of each and every day. He loves to rub his head against her neck and shoulders and flanks, like a cat rubbing their face on a person. It's absolutely adorable. And really funny. We tease him. "How you gonna get up on that, Cloud? Huh? She's mucha mujer
for you, Cabron."
Nor is that the only inter-species affair going on. Why it's a regular hotbed of beast-on-beast bestiality around here. Poppy is in love with the mammoth jack who lives in the field to the east of us. She flirts with him shamelessly. And - as I was walking the perimeter the other day (slowly and carefully) I saw there is a section of mashed down fence over where they all hang out. I'm worried it might be possible for that jack to tag Poppy right through the fence. Goats and sheep can occasionally do it, and a donkey's pizzle has considerable more reach than a goat's (sorry, cabron, it's true.). If he did manage to get her pregnant, that would be an absolute catastrophe. She's just a yearling, and he's five times her size.

Better make fence repairs. Again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Is What Poor Pasture Management Leads To....

I was trying to turn over a bit of the compost pile today - something I had no business trying to do, in light of my three fractured vertebrae - and I tripped and sat down rather heavily. No harm done, except that I sat down in a patch of burdock. Three thousand burrs immediately leaped off the plant and into my hair. It was a case of insta-dread.

One hour and one bottle of conditioner later, no harm done. But still and all, it wasn't very pleasant. Just one more reason for vigilance against the weeds. Just one... small... reason.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Canning Wrap Up (Green Tomato Chutney)

Now it's October. We are still enjoying lovely, sunny weather, which is very nice, but it's definitely fall now. The leaves are changing, the garden spiders have set up their webs all over everything and are beginning to lay their egg sacs, and the harvest is basically over. There will be apples, of course, but the garden is done for.

At the swap meet last weekend, I acquired a grocery sack full of green tomatoes. Having never had so many green tomatoes before, I looked for ways to use them aside from frying them in cornmeal batter (yummy, but not really so very healthy). Everywhere I looked, I really found only one solution: Green tomato chutney.

Chutney is kind of a weird food. Who really eats a lot of chutney? I mean, growing up, there was always a bottle of Major Grey's Mango Chutney in the fridge, and I did like that stuff. I still do. But a tablespoon or so was about my annual consumption. I don't think I've bought a bottle in at least five years. I do enjoy Indian food and actually cook it fairly often, but I just don't put chutney on anything. I make raita, usually (yogurt sauce).

Plus it's a weird word, isn't it? chutney chutney chutney chutney.... Anyway.

I found a recipe and cooked up some green tomato chutney. It's pretty simple, just chopped green tomatoes, chopped onion, raisins, sugar and vinegar and a little salt. I added garlic and hot red pepper flakes, just because those two items improve everything, right? Then you simmer it for a few hours until it is almost jam-like. And you know what? I like it! It's good! It's tangy, sweet-and-sour, jammy and delicious.

But what do you DO with it? You can't just eat it with a spoon! Although to be honest I remember doing that very thing as a child with the Major Grey's. I could give it away as Christmas presents but I canned it in quart jars. I'm all out of smaller jars. Merry Christmas! Here's a lifetime supply of chutney for you! Does this mean I'm off the Christmas card list?

So if anyone out there has some ideas about how to use green tomato chutney, let me know, wouldja? I think it would taste good on a toasted cheese sandwich, and I'm thinking it might go well on a baked potato. Maybe as a small side for pork chops. Anything else?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Serious Disappointment

Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2010 15:49:02 -0700
Subject: Good Food Awards Entry Notification

Dear Aimee,

Many thanks for your interest in participating in the Good Food Awards. In its inaugural year, the Good Food Awards will honor the people behind tasty, authentic, and responsibly produced foods. We regret to inform you that due to a miscommunication with our cheese committee chairs, the acceptance letter that you received about your eligibility for the Oct. 10 blind tasting was sent to you in error. Upon further review of your application, the committee has decided that your cheese will not be eligible for this year's competition. Despite your commendable production methods, we are not accepting entries from homestead operations that are not "sale ready".

Please accept our very sincere apologies for the mix-up. We are aware that there are many challenges to overcome in creating a commercially viable product that also meets the sustainability criteria set forth by the Good Food Awards. Nevertheless, we applaud your efforts, wish you the best of luck as you grow and overcome these challenges, and hope that you consider entering next year's competition.

If you have already paid the $10 transaction fee per submission, then we will refund the full amount to your paypal account. You will receive a confirmation email from paypal followed by a full reimbursement within a coupe of days. If you paid for your submissions with a check, we will return your voided check to you shortly.

Thank you again for your submission. Please contact us at info@goodfoodawards.org or call the office at (415) xxx-xxxx if you have any questions or concerns.

With great appreciation,

All of us at the Good Food Awards

My Reply:

Dear Xxxxx -

What a shame - I've already told all my friends.

I read your site carefully and did not see any requirement that entrants be commercial operations - you might want to rectify that in the future. Of course I understand that my product does not fit your criteria and cannot be included. Since I am not trying to create a legal business, simply to follow my personal passion, I doubt I will ever be eligible for inclusion. More's the pity - I doubt many of your panelists ever get the chance to taste a product such as mine. I am sure your cheese panel could have a lively debate on the subject of the law as it pertains to raw milk cheeses.

Should you ever decide to allow the inclusion of non-commercial products, please let me know. I would be delighted to provide samples of my "Smokin' Goat Chilpotle Cheddar" or my "Chevre Chevrere" for consideration any old time at all. There's no doubt in my mind that my cheese would stand on its own merits.

I hope your inaugural event is a great success. Your goal is laudable and I wish you all the best in advancing it. Enjoy yourselves as you taste the best that America's small producers have to offer.


Aimee Day